What is an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that develops outside of the uterus.  This is almost always in the fallopian tube (tube that connects the ovary with the uterus) but can also occur on the ovary or other pelvic/abdominal organ.

Why should I be concerned about an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy grows as it would in the uterus, and for this reason it is susceptible to rupturing (bursting).  This can lead to internal bleeding and a life threatening situation.  If ruptured, you will need surgery.

What are symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?

Abnormal bleeding – it may be spotting or heavy bleeding
Pelvic pain – pain may be sharp and sudden or a dull ache that progressively worsens over time
Dizziness, weakness, or fainting – this could be due to blood loss internally

Who is at higher risk for an ectopic pregnancy?

Women at higher risk include those with previous ectopic pregnancies, history of a tubal ligation, pelvic inflammatory disease, history of gonorrhea or chlamydia infection, smoking, history of pelvic or abdominal surgery.   Many women with ectopic pregnancies however have none of these risk factors.

How is an ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?

An ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed by a thorough pelvic exam, a vaginal ultrasound, and a beta hCG hormone level.  Typically, all of these are needed to accurately diagnose an ectopic pregnancy.

What is the treatment for an ectopic pregnancy?

There are two basic forms of treatment for ectopic pregnancies.  The first is medication and the second is surgery.  Your doctor will decide what treatment is best for you based on the size, appearance, and whether or not the ectopic pregnancy is ruptured or not.  Medications involve slowing the growth of the pregnancy until your body eventually absorbs it.  Surgery consists of removing the ectopic pregnancy from the tube or removing the entire fallopian tube.

Can I get pregnant after an ectopic pregnancy?

As long as you still have at least one fallopian tube your fertility should not be affected.  However, you are at higher risk of having another ectopic pregnancy in the future.